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Duke Faculty Assist in Public Hearings on North Carolina Connection to Torture Flights

Robin Kirk, James Coleman, Jayne Huckerby and others will participate in two days of public hearings on the state's connection to so-called
Robin Kirk, James Coleman, Jayne Huckerby and others will participate in two days of public hearings on the state's connection to so-called "torture taxis."

In the years following 9/11, North Carolina was used as a staging ground to launch flights that picked up suspected terrorists abroad and transported them to CIA "black sites" and third-party countries where they were illegally detained and tortured.

Now an expert panel involving several members of the Duke community is attempting to bring public accountability for these acts of torture tied to Aero Contractors, a company headquartered in Johnston County, North Carolina. Evidence in the declassified executive summary of the 2014 US Senate report on CIA torture connected the Johnston County airport has been connected to more than 40 such flights known as “torture taxis.”

The panel, known at the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture, will hold public hearings Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at the Raleigh Convention Center. Both sessions begin at 9 a.m.

The commission is an independent non-profit organization looking to make public more information about the state’s connection to torture. The commission will hear testimony about how Aero Contractors used the state’s infrastructure, including taxpayer-funded public airports, to station and deploy planes that picked up suspects abroad and transported them to black site prisons or third-party countries where they experienced torture. 

Two Duke faculty members are part of the 11-person commission: Robin Kirk is faculty co-chair of the executive committee of the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, and Jim Coleman is currently a John S. Bradway Professor of the Practice of Law and Co-Director of the Wrongful Convictions Clinic at Duke Law School.  In addition, alumnus Rev. Ben Boswell, a graduate of Duke Divinity School and current senior minister of Charlotte’s Myers Park Baptist Church, is a commissioner.

Two Duke scholars will testify at the hearings:

  • Imam Abdullah Antepli will speak about the Muslim perspective on torture and its impact on Muslim communities.  He is the chief representative of Muslim Affairs at Duke and an adjunct faculty of Islamic Studies.
  • Jayne Huckerby will testify about the application of international law regarding torture and North Carolina's resulting obligations. Huckerby is clinical professor of law and director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Duke Law.

Testimony received at this event, along with additional information gained through research, private briefings, and submissions to the Commission, will be included in a report with findings and recommendations to be issued in 2018.  The open public hearings will be live streamed at